There’s a quote from the 1988 film “The Grifters” that has reached widespread popularity over the ensuing years due to how accurately it defines the importance and fragility of trust:
“Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”
When it comes to building any type of relationship, trust can prove to be as elusive as it is essential, and just like in personal relationships, a brand to consumer relationship that doesn’t have trust at its core isn’t going to last exceptionally long. Just like with people, consumers invest in brands they believe have won their trust through a series of different experiences and interactions, milestones that have proven the brand is worthy of the consumer’s faith.
Trust sounds like something subjective – a feeling, a sense, or an experience – but in truth, it is more than that. Trust is a process, one that builds over time through a series of positive interactions and creates within consumers a sense of loyalty to the brand. By demonstrating credibility, reliability, intimacy, and a commitment to ethics, brands can increase not only their customer experience, but also something much deeper; loyal brand consumers who come back for more and evangelize the brand to others. If you are a commercial brand, creating a brand that is seen as being trustworthy is modern marketing gold, and it directly translates into increased ROI.
So how do you build that trust with today’s savvy consumers? Here are some tips on where to begin building a long-term, trust-centric bond with your customers.
Keep Your Promises
You’ve likely heard the expression “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” This maxim is especially true when working to establish trusting relationships with your customers. Today’s customers expect businesses to keep the promises they make, whether it pertains to the capabilities of your products, the quality of your services, showing up to service calls on time, or a promise to give some of your proceeds to charity. And unlike in the past, today’s consumers have the ability and the motivation to check up on your track record when it comes to promise keeping. Brands that don’t score high in this department often find themselves losing customers’ trust.
When making promises to customers, be realistic. Over-promising or under-delivering is a sure-fire way to lose credibility. Keep everything from your product or service descriptions to promotional offers as clear and accurate as possible. Regularly review your promises to see if you are upholding them. If you are not staying true to your word, not only will customersnot know what to believe, they will also expose brands who seem to talk a good talk, but struggle with walking the walk.
Follow-Up with Customers
Follow-up and follow-through are key factors in establishing loyal customer relationships.Not only can customers easily forget about you if you fail to keep in touch after an initial transaction, but they can also decide you really aren’t invested in keeping their business if you aren’t checking in regularly to ensure their needs are being met and how your products and services are working out for them or suggest additional ways your company can help them meet their goals.
While an occasional customer survey is better than nothing, today’s consumers expect a high degree of personalization in their brand interactions. “Just checking in” calls from an account manager are a great way to demonstrate to a client that your company is fully invested in their continued happiness and success. Sharing topical articles on your website and social media can also show you’re continually thinking about your customer’s needs and their overall growth. Above all, listening to their feedback and regularly upgrading your service based upon that feedback exemplifies a brand that is fully committed to being the best service provider they can possibly be.
Don’t Ignore Mistakes or Bad Service
The way a successful brand handles damage control these days has drastically changed. Gone are the days of ignoring a lapse in service or a hiccup in deliveries and hoping it will just go away. In today’s modern eCommerce world, brands that “pretend there’s nothing to see here” will not only lose customers, but they will also find themselves exposed on social media or service-review sites like Yelp! And Angi’s for poor PR management.
When you make a mistake in your business, don’t beat around the bush. Avoiding your mistakes can come back to haunt you and cause customers to not trust you anymore. Today, your best bet is to immediately take responsibility for your actions. Offer an honest explanation for your company’s mistake. Rather than just saying “I apologize” consider saying “I’m truly sorry for any inconveniences this issue caused you.” Offer ways to make things right, such as discounts on next month’s bill, or a lower rate for an upgraded service. If it’s a significant error that impacted several customers, smart brands can turn what would have been a huge PR blunder into positive exposure by admitting to the error on social media, apologizing, and showing a true commitment to making it right.
Offering a sincere apology shows customers you are honest about your mistakes and want to learn from them. And, showing customers you are sorry and want to improve makes you less likely to lose their trust after a bad experience.
Consistency is Key
Just like how we trust consistency from friends and family, consumers look for consistency in the brands to which they pledge their loyalty and faith. Brand consistency can cover several different areas. If one of your brand cornerstone values is always being on the cusp of innovation, ensure you are continually providing that value to your customers by upgrading your services, finding new ways to help them meet challenges, and being at the forefront of new technology whenever possible. If you’ve always performed upgrades to services during overnight hours, don’t suddenly change your schedule to daytime hours without ample explanation and warning to your customers.
Also, pay close attention to your brand messaging. Ensure that your branding, your language, and the values you espouse to adhere to and believe in are uniform across all your brand collateral and touchpoints.
Reliability is Essential
The golden film era star Marlene Dietrich had a famous saying: “It’s the friends you can call at 4 am who really matter the most.” This is an ideal that should be present in your service model. Nothing boosts consumer loyalty more than a business partner or service provider who is there during a crisis, goes out of their way to accommodate a last-minute emergency order, or goes above and beyond to help during a customer service call.
If your client calls you when they’re in a pinch, rather than look at it as an inconvenience, take it as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your customers and to prove their business matters to you.
Always Be Transparent
A recent study indicated that today’s consumers feel transparency is the number one characteristic they look for in the brands with whom they do business. Today’s consumers want to know what you’re about not just in business, but what your ethical commitments and brand values are.
Therefore, if you claim that the safety and privacy of customer data is important to you, make sure you are living up to that commitment. Since data is a major component of how brands personalize and enhance customer journey today, make sure that your customers feel comfortable providing you with that level of data, knowing you will stick to your word to keep it safe and secure, and to only use the data they have provided to boost their customer journey with your brand. As data has become the gold standard tool for providing excellent customer experiences, clients need to feel confident they are working with a brand that will use this customer-provided intel only for good reasons that benefit them.
By ensuring that you’re consistently finding ways to enhance and boost your customers trust in your brand, you’ll find that developing true customer loyalty is something that comes naturally from providing excellent service, a 24/7 commitment to customer experience, and a personalized, unique experience.